San Diego to Beijing

Working Long Days, Interviews with USA Curlers John Shuster and Matt Hamilton and Trying to Connect with Other Olympians

NBC 7's Steven Luke is in Beijing, China covering the 2022 Winter Olympics from Jan. 4th to the 20th

Steven Luke interviewing USA Curlers John Shuster and Matt Hamilton on Feb. 5, 2022.
NBC 7/Steven Luke

Saturday, Feb. 5th:

⛷ It’s full speed ahead with the Olympic competition now that the opening ceremony is in our rearview mirror. My days are starting to feel a bit more structured now that I have regularly scheduled live shots for our morning and late news shows back home. The 12 to 13 hour days are typical at the Olympics, but some are longer with 16 being my record so far in Beijing.

Today, I grabbed an 11 a.m. bus to get into the IBC by 11:30 am so I could do a noon interview with USA Curlers John Shuster and Matt Hamilton. I know, curling isn’t exactly a huge San Diego thing, but these guys are cool. They grabbed a lot of attention in the last Olympics when they captured Team USA’s first-ever curling gold. Shuster was also the flag bearer during the opening ceremony, so the interview worked well coming out of prime time coverage. We did the interview in a decked-out studio just down the hall. NBC Sports built it as part of their prime-time coverage. The studio wouldn’t normally be accessible for a local reporter from San Diego, but since most of the big-time NBC personalities are back in the states, it was available. It looks like a cozy mountain lodge in the snow with a fireplace. Shuster and Hamilton, like most Olympians, are pretty down-to-earth. Shuster even told me about a San Diego athlete, not on my radar. He said she is a hockey player on the Switzerland team and they met during the opening ceremony. I’m on it!

Speaking of San Diego athletes, I also caught up today with an 18-year-old snowboarder from Carlsbad via zoom right after the interview with the curlers. Tessa Maud qualified in halfpipe snowboard and has been splitting her time between her hometown and Mammoth Mountain since she was 7 years old. These extreme sports Olympians start early! We talked about her experience so far in Beijing, her childhood, and not having her parents with her for the biggest sporting event of her young career. She called the opening ceremony the most amazing experience. I’ll put the story together in advance of her first competition next week. Like I mentioned in a previous post, these interviews take a bit more time and leg work to set up than they would normally back in the states. NBC works closely with the US Olympic & Paralympic Committee and its various national governing bodies (USA Curling, USA Ski, and Snowboard, USA Hockey, etc) to make sure athletes don’t get overwhelmed with various requests. The system works, but it is always kind of funny since I typically have their cell phones and we’ve done stories together before they left.

The Carlsbad teen and Olympian, Tessa Maud on the halfpipe.

The process of going through the proper chain of command isn’t as formal when it involves athletes competing for other countries. One of my favorite winter Olympians is a 24-year-old halfpipe snowboarder from Ramona who is competing in his 3rd Olympics for Ireland. We’ve been trying to figure out a time to connect up in the mountains where he is based and he thinks he can meet me at a hotel within the Olympic bubble which is accessible by both of us. I’m off tomorrow, but since there’s not a lot to do on a day off around here, I’m going to head up the mountain on the bullet train to meet him for a quick interview. I know there’s a lot of controversy with these Olympics because of where it is being held and who is hosting it. This has definitely complicated the tone of my coverage, however, the athletes are still the crazy talented, insanely disciplined, and yet ordinary people who inspire greatness with their devotion to a craft. I’m glad to share their stories and I’ll do it with a smile every single time.

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